Firefighters scrap pension strike

Banbury Cake: The Fire Brigades Union has called off planned strike action The Fire Brigades Union has called off planned strike action

A planned strike by firefighters in England and Wales today has been called off after progress in a dispute over pensions.

The Fire Brigades Union said it had been presented with a similar deal to one made by the Scotland Government, covering the retirement of firemen and women aged between 55 and 60.

A walkout which was due to start at 6.30pm today will not now go ahead.

The union held a four-hour stoppage last month across England and Wales over a long-running row about the age at which firefighters can retire and take up their pension.

The union raised concerns that moving the pension age from 55 to 60 would lead to firefighters losing their jobs if they failed fitness tests, forcing them to leave on reduced pensions.

Progress has now been made between the union and the Government, with FBU officials saying firefighters would now not face having to quit their job early, on a reduced pension.

The union said there had been a "last-minute shift" in the Government's and employers' positions, which effectively guaranteed that no firefighter would be left without either a job or an unreduced pension.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: " FBU members want firm guarantees and not just fine words. We have given Government the opportunity to progress this matter seriously.

"The Fire Minister has said that the proposal from the employers removes the threat of 'no job, no pension'. Firefighters will have serious concerns about this claim and will want cast-iron guarantees that this will be addressed properly.

"The FBU has temporally postponed the planned strike to enable these guarantees to be firmed up. However, there are a number of important and unresolved elements of our dispute and we need to be clear that we may have to resort to further strike action."

The union said one of its main concerns was that firefighters will be unable to reach the new pension age of 60.

The Government's own evidence outlined that a significant number of firefighters will be unable to maintain the required fitness standards beyond 55, said the union.

Fire Minister Brandon Lewis said: "The public will welcome the fact that industrial action has been called off.

"This is as a result of constructive discussions and I hope it provides the basis for a lasting agreement that will give hardworking firefighters one of the most generous pension schemes in the public sector whilst also being fair to taxpayers."

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